No news is bad news

December 2nd, 2008

I’ve seen a couple of tongue-in-cheek pleas from newsies for a government bailout of journalism (at least I think they were tongue-in-cheek), but maybe the news business does deserve some government cash. Certainly, they could use it. Everywhere you look, there are signs pointing to an industry that is cratering fast – newspaper circulation is down; ad revenues are down; layoffs are up.

In print media, the ink-stained wretches are finding themselves unemployed. In California, one publisher has decided to treat his paper like a business, and outsourced the labor to India.

In local TV news, it’s the Voices of Authority who are paying the price – increasingly, high salaried and, in many cases, beloved newscasters are not having their big bucks contracts renewed. Big name anchors like Chicago’s Diann Burns, Boston sportscaster Bob Lobell, and Carolyn Campbell from Houston are being let go after decades on the news desk. It’s enough to make Jim Gardner nervous.

I remember a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when a news director I worked for was asked why he decided not to renew the contract of our highest profile talent. In his words, “X is not worth a rating point.” Ouch.

Certainly there are some spectacular talents that attract and keep an audience and become a Voice of Authority, but they are few and far between. Increasingly, the reality is that local TV news is becoming a commodity and the job goes to the low bidder.

Obviously, there is tremendous upheaval across the news industry and the communicators who have to deal with them will need to adjust accordingly – the future may very well hold more podcasts and blogs, and fewer news releases and press conferences. In the meantime, you stay classy, blog readers….

Posted Under: Media & Journalism
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